A Few Days Alone in Banff National Park, Canada, Confirms Thoughts of Auto-Extinction
Each nightfall brings a wave of deep mammalian terror. Total darkness, total solitude. We are programmed to fear this, just another link in the food chain. Scrawny naked ape so vulnerable sleeping on the ground, bigger animals with claws and teeth all about. I find an an abandoned canoe on this glacial lake where no road arrives. How did it get here? A paddle made from chunks of wood pushes me towards the other shore. The sky turns black and the lake erupts into to milky green whitecaps. Maybe this janky canoe will leak or capsize in the storm. I'd die of hypothermia long before reaching the shore. A corpse would float to shore and be eaten by scavengers. I paddle furiously into the wind, feeling so tiny, and also so fucking happy. After a few days my food runs out. And this place it better off without me anyway. It's time to retrace steps back the road, fording rivers, wading through bogs. Back at the highway there is a coyote with a panicked expression trying to cross the road. His eyes are golden, his fur dense and soft; he gets close to sniff and decides that I'm less a threat than the passing traffic. When the road is free of cars I clap and stomp to spook him across. We continue to stare at each for awhile. I feel profoundly apologetic for this highway and it's cars, which, even in this most remote and protected place, circumscribe his territory and threaten his life. I hope someday the coyotes, bears, and their allies encroach on human landscapes, that every trip to the corner store is an opportunity for attack by a mountain lion, that forests sprawl to swallow the cities.